Who will replace Liz Truss as UK prime minister?

Another one bites the dust. 

Liz Truss handed in her resignation on Thursday afternoon after only 45 days as UK prime minister

She will go down in the history books as the shortest-serving leader in British history (so far), taking the record from George Canning who died of ill health in 1827 after 119 days in office.

The dust has barely settled, but the race to replace Truss as leader of the battered and beleaguered Conservative Party has already started, with a new PM promised by October 28.

Whoever wins will be the UK’s fourth leader in just over three years, amid a wave of political turmoil in a country that was once looked at as a beacon of stability.  

So who are the main contenders? 

Rishi Sunak

Sunak is the bookmaker’s favourite. 

The 42-year-old former treasury chief came second to Truss in the last Conservative leadership race.

During the heated TV debates between the two, Sunak slammed Truss’s proposed economic policies of slashing taxes, claiming they were reckless “fairy tales” that would send the economy into free fall. 

He positioned himself as a stability candidate who could face up to hard truths about the UK’s public finances. 

Most of what Sunak predicted came to pass, notably the pound collapsing in value, with some in the Tory party claiming this vindicates his leadership credentials. 

Sunak was formerly the Treasury chief under ex-PM Boris Johnson. 

He resigned after a succession of scandals hit Johnson’s government, particularly over drunken parties in Downing Street during the lockdown, but was blighted by Johnson’s demise. 

Sunak steered the UK through the coronavirus pandemic, overseeing billions of pounds in government handouts to help businesses and workers hit hard by COVID-19.

Born to Indian parents who moved to the UK from East Africa, Sunak attended the Winchester College private school — which costs £33,990 a year for day pupils — and studied at Oxford. 

Some see Sunak as out of touch and an easy target for the opposition amid a cost of living crisis because of his elite education and last jobs at the investment bank Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund. 

He was also sharply criticised following revelations that his wife, Akshata Murthy, avoided paying taxes on her overseas income. Her father is one of the richest men in Iran. 

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt is currently serving in government as the leader of the House of Commons. 

The 49-year-old got bronze in the last Tory leadership race, coming in at third behind Sunak and Truss.

Mordaunt did not hold a senior post in Johnson’s Cabinet, allowing her to present herself as a clean break from his scandal-ridden government.

Mordaunt is popular among Conservative MPs. 

She has stood in for Truss in recent days, speaking on the ex-PMs behalf after former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was sacked for his botched economic plans, which spooked the markets.

At the time, Mordaunt had to deny Truss was hiding “under a desk”. 

Some Conservatives believe she could be the perfect candidate to help the fractured party, which on Wednesday faced accusations that members were being bullied and manhandled into supporting a parliamentary vote. 

Yet Mordaunt is a largely unknown figure amongst ordinary Britons. 

Mordaunt played a prominent role in the pro-Brexit campaign. She was the first woman to become British defence secretary in 2019 — though she was removed by Johnson after just three months in the post because she had backed another candidate for party leader, Jeremy Hunt.

Suella Braverman

Braverman helped catalyse Truss’s demise. 

She quit as Home Secretary on Wednesday, slamming Truss’s “tumultuous” leadership in a fiercely worded resignation letter.

Truss hung up her hat three hours later. 

A 42-year-old former barrister, whose parents emigrated to the UK from Mauritius and Kenya, Braverman tried — and failed — to replace Johnson in the last leadership race. 

During her very brief stint as Home Secretary, Braverman vowed to crack down hard on asylum seekers, saying it was her “dream” to see planes deporting those seeking safety in the UK to Rwanda. 

Her speech about this deportation plan — which the UN says is illegal — sparked controversy, which could taint her leadership bid. 

Braverman also wants to pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human rights, another divisive topic.

She made headlines — and was mocked by opponents — when she attacked government critics as “the Labour Party, it’s the Lib Dems, it’s the coalition of chaos, it’s the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati…”

Ben Wallace

Wallace, currently the UK defence minister, is a 52-year-old army veteran. 

He is popular within the Conservative Party, with many admiring his straight talk, steadfast support of Ukraine and continued efforts to get the UK to raise its defence spending to 3% of GDP. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has helped boost Wallace’s profile in the UK, giving him a key voice in the government. 

But there are doubts he wants to be leader, as Wallace recently said he wanted to remain in his current job. 

On Tuesday, he criticised his colleagues in the Conservative Party for playing political “games”, saying “the public wants stability and security and if the government fails to deliver that then they will send us into opposition.”

Boris Johnson

Last but not least: Boris Johnson. 

There was intense speculation on Thursday that the UK’s last PM might return to number 10 — just weeks after he was forced out following a flurry of scandals.

Within hours of Truss’ resignation, several Conservative allies of Johnson’s voiced their support for him to return, posting on Twitter #BackBoris. 

“The only person who has a mandate from the general public is Boris Johnson,” said MP Marco Longhi. “He is the only person who can discharge the mandate from the people.”

In his farewell address as PM, Johnson fuelled rumours that he might return to politics, saying hasta la vista (see you later) to the public. 

He likened himself to Roman statesman Cincinnatus, who later returned to serve a second term after battling enemy invaders, according to tradition. 

But he remains a controversial candidate. 

Johnson’s time in office was blighted by repeated scandals over alcohol-fueled parties at his official residence during COVID-19 lockdowns, with reports of cleaning staff being badly treated and fights between revellers. 

He still faces an ongoing investigation by Parliament’s privileges committee into whether he lied to lawmakers about COVID-rule breaking at Downing Street.

Johnson was forced to announce his resignation on July 7 after former allies in his Cabinet joined a mass exodus of government officials protesting his leadership.

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